Fla. Gov. wants review of special taxing districts
By GARY FINEOUT
Scott issued an executive order that calls for the state to look at how such districts are collecting tax dollars and if the districts are being governed efficiently. The state estimates that these districts take in more than $15 billion a year in revenue.
"We ought to be constantly reviewing how Floridians' tax dollars are being spent," Scott said. "If it's being spent well, we ought to keep doing it. If not, let's change."
Special taxing districts are spread throughout the state and have been used to pay for everything from mosquito control to taking care of flooding. Many special districts have the ability to borrow money which is paid back from charges placed on the tax bills of property owners.
One of the state's most famous special districts is the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was set up by state lawmakers more than four decades ago and is the home to the Disney theme parks. The Villages, the large retirement community in Central Florida, also consists of a series of special districts.
Scott ordered his budget office to assemble large amounts of information on the state's special districts, including the budgets of the districts and whether they are charging too much in taxes and fees. Scott also wants to know what the districts are paying their employees.
The governor also suggested that some districts are not currently handing over information about their activities to the state as required under state law.
"With such a significant impact on the lives of every Floridian and our economy, it is critical that we get a firm grasp on how these special districts are operating and hold them accountable," Scott said in a statement.
Clete Saunier, president of the Florida Association of Special Districts, said the group welcomed a "fact-based discussion" about special districts and said they were created "upon public demand."
"As the review gets underway, we look forward to working closely with the governor and his team to show Floridians how their tax dollars are being put to good use every day," Saunier said in a statement.